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Category: Classic Rarities

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Fun Has Begun

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #34

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

While the Summer ANA Convention includes a wide variety of items of interest to collectors of U.S. coins, paper money, tokens and medals, plus some coins of the world, the Winter FUN Convention is the leading event of the year in the field of rare U.S. coins. Today’s discussion will be a little shorter than usual as I am busy in Tampa viewing coins, witnessing events and gathering information during FUN week. Yes, the winter FUN Convention formally begins on Thursday, at the Tampa Convention center. Coin related events, however, have already occurred.

I. B&M Pre-FUN Auction

I attended the Bowers & Merena pre-FUN auction on Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which is near the Tampa Airport. In last week’s column, I discussed the fact that Bowers & Merena and Stack’s are in the process of merging. The new Stack’s-Bowers president, Chris Napolitano, was in attendance. It was made clear that QDB and Chris Karstedt would continue to play roles in Stack’s-Bowers. Brad Karoleff, the longtime auctioneer for B&M, and Melissa Karstedt, an auctioneer at Stack’s, served as auctioneers during Tuesday night. Unfortunately, as this auction did not finish until well into Tuesday night, there was not time for me to thoroughly analyze this event.

On Tuesday, the lot viewing room for the B&M auction was packed. There were, at times, people waiting for seats in a fairly large room on the main floor of a very large hotel. My sources tell me that lot viewing attendance was excellent on Sunday and Monday as well, and that there were many collectors and dealers viewing at Heritage’s lot viewing room at the Tampa Convention center on Monday and Tuesday. So far, there seems to be even more interest in the FUN auctions than there was last year. It is too early, however, to draw a conclusion on the topic of collector interest in FUN week auctions.

In my column of Dec. 8, I raised the topic of FUN auctions, and I then provided explanations as to the general importance of January FUN auctions. My column of Dec. 8 is primarily about Jim O’Neal’s landmark set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins) and I remind readers that I wrote a two part series on O’Neal’s Eagles ($10 gold coins) in 2009. Please also read my article about the Jan. 7, 2010 Platinum Night event. (As usual, clickable links are in blue.)

In my column of Dec. 22, I focused upon the Henry Miller collection, the core of which Heritage will auction on Thursday, during Platinum Night. On Dec. 15, I wrote about the Malibu set of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters. The collector known as ‘Malibu’ also consigned Proof Liberty Seated halves and silver dollars to Tuesday night’s event, plus a few other coins. As I earlier suggested, his set of Proof Liberty Seated Quarters is far more spectacular than his respective sets of halves and dollars. I was delighted to finally have the opportunity to view all of his Liberty Seated Quarters, Half Dollars and Dollars. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The Henry Miller Collection

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #32

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. FUN Auctions

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Jim O’Neal’s set of Indian Head Half Eagles ($5 gold coins), which will be auctioned during the Jan. 6, 2011 FUN Platinum Night auction in Tampa. During the FUN Convention, Heritage will auction a wide variety of items, including the Henry Miller collection. Miller specialized in Proof gold coins and many of his coins will also be sold during this Platinum Night event. He also had business strikes. The topic here is the Henry Miller collection.

To attain some understanding of FUN Platinum Night events, please see my column two weeks ago and my articles concerning coins auctioned in Jan. 2009 and 2010: The Jan. 2010 Platinum Night, $3,737,500 for a nickel, the O’Neal Collection of Indian Head Eagles, and Jay Brahin’s $20 gold coins.

II. Henry Miller

Henry Miller collected coins for decades before passing in 2009. He lived and worked in New York City. Miller collected Proof Liberty Head Double Eagles ‘by date’ and gold coins from many other series mostly ‘by type.’ Though Miller had a few pre-1834 Half Eagles and some early 20th century gold coins, he generally focused on U.S. gold coins of the second half of the 19th century. Additionally, he had an accumulation of ‘not rare date’ Liberty Head and Saint Gaudens Double Eagles. Also, Miller had a complete 1887 Proof Set, copper, nickel, silver and gold, which Eric Streiner regards as “a fantastic set.”

Eric Streiner remembers Miller’s coins though he has not seen any of them for more than a dozen years. Streiner “knew the guy quite well. Miller really liked his coins. He spent a lot of time looking at his coins,” Streiner recounts. Eric emphasizes that Miller was an enthusiastic collector.

Eric reports that “Miller bought most of his coins in the 1970s from dealers in the New York area, many from Stack’s. He bought some at auction, but mostly he bought coins privately,” Streiner says. “He bought a few coins in the mid 1990s,” Eric adds.

Streiner relates that, “in the late 1980s or early 1990s,” Eric arranged for Miller’s coins to be submitted to the NGC for grading and encapsulation. Streiner remembers that Miller contacted him through Stack’s. At the time, Eric was a very young dealer who had a reputation as a grading wizard. I (this writer) heard many stories, some clearly verifiable, of Eric spotting coins that were undergraded, or not clearly graded, by other coin dealers.

John Albanese recollects that, “a long time ago, probably in the late 1980s, [he] had lunch at a seafood restaurant with Eric Streiner and Henry Miller, who was a really nice guy.” Albanese is glad to have had the opportunity to view Miller’s Proofs again. Recently, Heritage sent many of Miller’s Proof coins to the CAC.

John Albanese was the sole founder of the NGC in 1987. Mark Salzberg, the largest current shareholder in the NGC, joined Albanese as a partner in 1988. Ten years later, Albanese sold his shares in the NGC to Salzberg. In 2007, John founded the CAC, which evaluates the quality of coins that are already graded and encapsulated by the PCGS or the NGC. Submitted coins may be approved or rejected. Approved coins receive a CAC sticker.

Both Albanese and Streiner were very impressed by the quality of Miller’s coins. Streiner, “even around twenty years later,” recalls Miller’s coins “as great pieces, nice original stuff, mostly gem, definitely good eye appeal.” Indeed, John and Eric separately emphasized that Miller’s Proof gold coins tend to be “original,” meaning that these have never been dipped, substantially cleaned, or doctored.

Though Streiner “hates to say it,” Eric is concerned that “some of these coins might lose their original surfaces, after the auction”! Some dealers will dip or doctor them in efforts to get higher grades assigned. (more…)

Bullock 1856-O double eagle brings $345,000 to headline $13.4 Million Heritage Long Beach Auction

Gold remains in high demand as it reaches world record $1,300 an ounce high

The recently discovered Bullock specimen of the 1856-O double eagle, XF45+, NGC, was the unabashed star of the Sept. 23-26 Heritage Auctions September Long Beach, CA Signature® U.S. Coin Auction, as it soared to $345,000 amidst spirited bidding. The auction realized an impressive $13.4 million total, with almost 5,000 bidders vying for the 7,385 lots, translating into a 93% sell-through rate by value and 96% by total number of lots.

Overall the auction affirmed the continued strength of gold in an up-and-down global market – with spot gold prices reaching $1,300 and on Friday, Sept. 24 – with fully seven of the top 10 lots coming in the form of the precious metal.

“We were all quite impressed overall with how these coins performed,” said Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions. “Collectors continue to respond enthusiastically to the best and rarest examples, as evidenced by the heated competition for the Bullock 1856-O double eagle. We don’t expect to see a drop-off in gold demand as the year comes to a close and we hold our last few auctions of 2010.”

The 1856-O $20 XF45+ NGC, Ex: Bullock, one of perhaps 20 or fewer commercially available examples, made front-page news in the July 26, 2010 Coin World, with a headline proclaiming “1856-O gold double eagle surfaces in Ohio.” The coin was part of a “small accumulation of gold coins held by a family in Ohio for nearly 100 years,” and is now further distinguished by its $345,000 and its spot at the top of the roster in the Long Beach Auction.

Always popular when they come to auction, Kellogg & Humbert S.S. Central America gold ingots continued to capture collector imaginations, and superb final prices realized, at Long Beach when an astounding 114.65 ounce (9 pounds) “Very Large Size” Kellogg & Humbert Gold Assayer’s Ingot, 114.65 Ounces , brought $253,000 from an advanced collector, while a 23.35 Ounce Kellogg & Humbert S.S. Central America Gold Ingot, considered “small to medium-sized,” captured great attention at a final price of $80,500.

Nineteenth century gold continued its dominance at the top of the auction, with the single finest 1891 Carson City $10 MS65 NGC bringing $74,750. The same final price was realized by a spectacular 1848 $2-1/2 CAL. MS61 NGC, a sublime quarter eagle gold coin made from some of the earliest gold mined during the California Gold Rush.

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:

1796 50C 16 Stars VF25 PCGS. O-102, High R.5.: Realized $69,000.

1895 $1 PR64 Deep Cameo PCGS: Realized $60,375.

1876 $3 PR64 Cameo NGC: Realized $54,625.

1886 $20 XF45 NGC: Realized $54,625.

1874-CC 10C Arrows AU50 PCGS. CAC: Realized $50,313.

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 500,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit HA.com.

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: 1856-O Double Eagles and other Great Rarities that I have seen

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #19

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

This week, I wish to focus upon the topic of viewing Great Rarities. This topic relates to several key concepts:

(1) To understand and appreciate Great Rarities, there is a need to see them.

(2) Viewing Great Rarities is important for coin enthusiasts, especially for those who cannot afford them. At a major art museum, most of the people viewing paintings cannot afford to buy such paintings or commensurable ones. They may still learn a great deal by seeing and interpreting works of art. Coin enthusiasts can and should learn about coins and examining Great Rarities is part of a learning process.

(3) Of course, I realize that many coin enthusiasts do not have the time or the resources to travel to view many Great Rarities. I hope that this is a reason, among other reasons, why coin enthusiasts read my columns and articles. Indeed, I hope that readers care about my interpretations of important coins, as I have devoted innumerable hours to viewing, analyzing, and writing about Great Rarities.

(4) I strongly maintain that, to be qualified to analyze coins, there is a need to carefully examine them. Further, to become an expert, there is a need to direct questions to experts, and I often do so. Certainly, viewing coins and asking questions are not the only criteria to qualify someone to analyze Great Rarities. These activities, though, are crucial to attaining knowledge in the field of rare U.S. coins.

(5) Though digital images of coins are sometimes wonderful, and imaging technology, along with its implementations, continues to improve, there is a great deal about many coins that cannot be seen in pictures. It is necessary to view actual coins to understand them. This will always be true.

(6) My comments below regarding many of the Great Rarities that I have seen are not meant to be boastful. Rather, such discussions relate to my qualifications and I wish to share my enthusiasm for Great Rarities with others.

Why discuss the topic of viewing Great Rarities now? While viewing the 1856-O Double Eagle ($20 gold coin) that Heritage will auction in Long Beach, I thought about the number of 1856-O Double Eagles that I have personally examined and then about some recent open discussions among coin enthusiasts regarding the “coolest” coins that each has held in his or her hands. I have seen at least seven different 1856-O Double Eagles.

I. 1856-O $20 Gold Coins

In the official auction for the Sept. Long Beach (CA) Expo, Heritage will offer a recently discovered 1856-O Double Eagle that is NGC graded “EF-45+.” In regards to how circulated, early New Orleans Mint Double Eagles are typically graded by the NGC, the “45+” grade is fair. I must admit, though, that there are several 1856-O Double Eagles that I like more than this one. Even so, this coin is sharply struck for the 1856-O issue and has minimal noticeable contact marks. It may not be easy to find a better one. All 1856-O Double Eagles, which I have seen, have been cleaned and/or dipped at one time or another. Type One (1850-66) Double Eagles have surged in popularity over the last ten years, and prices for rare dates of this type rose dramatically from 2003 to 2008.

“The two key collectible Type One Double Eagles are the 1854-O and the 1856-O. These have appreciated in value more than virtually any other United States gold coin in the last five to seven years,” declared Doug Winter in Oct. 2008.

In 2007, I wrote an article about 1856-O Double Eagles and I then focused upon a PCGS certified 1856-O that B&M auctioned in March 2007. On July 31, 2009, Heritage sold two 1856-O Double Eagles in one Platinum Night event. One of the two very much appealed to me. It is PCGS certified EF-45 and has a CAC sticker of approval. It has nice color and a great overall look. It scores particularly high in the category of originality.

Just weeks earlier, also in Los Angeles County, Heritage sold the special striking, ‘Specimen-63′ 1856-O in the official auction of the Spring 2009 Long Beach Expo. For years, I had dreamed about viewing that coin, and I was not disappointed. It is truly astounding. It is perhaps the most memorable and important of all New Orleans Mint gold coins. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Eliasberg 1795 Eagle, Gem Oak Tree Shilling and 1806 quarter of the rarest variety!

News and Analysis:  scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #16

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Yes, there are more rarities, available in Boston this month, which should be discussed. In my columns over the last two to three months, I have covered many important rarities that sold or appeared in Boston, especially coins in the Heritage, B&M and Stack’s auctions. In my column just two weeks ago, I discussed rarities that were ‘on the floor’ at the ANA Convention in Boston, which was held from Aug. 10th to 15th. Even so, three additional coins are each extremely important in their own different and very distinctive ways.

Perhaps few collectors would be enthusiastic about all three of these, though I find all three to be intriguing. These are an Eliasberg 1795 Eagle ($10 gold coin), the gem quality Earle-Boyd-Manley Oak Tree Shilling (of colonial Massachusetts), and an 1806 quarter in Very Good condition that sold for $18,666! An expected retail price for a VG grade 1806 quarter would be in a range from $600 to $900.

I. Eliasberg 1795 $10 Gold Coin

To the best of my recollection at this moment, this Eliasberg 1795 Eagle is the second best 1795 Eagle that I have ever seen, and it has more eye appeal than the first best. Gold coins were first struck at the U.S. Mint in 1795. As the 1796 and 1797 dates, of the Bust – Small Eagle type, are much rarer, the 1795 Eagle is one of the most popular of all U.S. gold coin issues. Plus, the Eagle ($10 gold coin) was the largest denomination of all U.S. coins until 1850, and zero business strike Eagles were struck between 1804 and 1838. (Please see my columns of Aug. 18 and July 28th for comments on a Proof 1804 Eagle.) As 1795 Eagles were the first U.S. $10 coins and are of a scarce design type, collectors tend to be extremely enthusiastic about them.

Louis Eliasberg, Sr. formed the all-time greatest collection of U.S. coins. After his death, one of his sons consigned his U.S. gold coins to Bowers & Ruddy, which auctioned them in New York in Oct. 1982. This coin, which is thought to be the finest of Eliasberg’s 1795 Eagles, was later graded by the NGC as “MS-65.” At the ANA Convention in Boston, it was in Kevin Lipton’s display case. Kevin’s asking price is “$1 million”!

It was Kris Oyster who drew my attention to this 1795 Eagle. “It is just a magnificent coin, a lustrous gem,” Oyster says. “It is the best 1795 Eagle that I have ever seen. It has bold detail, frosty devices, and fantastic appeal. I [Oyster] was struck by it.” Oyster is the managing director of numismatics for DGSE, which operates stores in Texas and elsewhere. In 2007, DGSE acquired Superior Galleries, a name that is well known to coin collectors.

I (this writer) also like this 1795 Eagle, which has a terrific overall look. It is very brilliant, with strong cartwheel luster. Its soft grass green tint is particularly appealing. There are a significant number of contact marks and hairlines, most of which are not noticeable without a magnifying glass. My hunch is that it is the fourth or fifth finest known.

Originally, I had planned to compile a condition ranking for 1795 Eagles. This project, however, will have to be postponed. I wish to be contacted by those who have examined 1795 Eagles that grade MS-64 or higher. The two that the PCGS and the three that the NGC has graded MS-65 probably amount to just two to four different coins.

My guess is that the Garrett coin, the coin in the leading collection of pre-1840 gold, and the coin that is PCGS graded MS-66 are all the same 1795 Eagle. John Albanese reports that “Dave Akers submitted a beautiful 1795 Eagle” to the NGC “in the late 1980s.” I (this writer) suggest that it is the coin that the PCGS later graded MS-66. “It is just amazing,” Albanese exclaims. “We [at the NGC] were talking about for months afterwards.”

Saul Teichman attended the auctions of the Eliasberg and Garrett collections. He states that the “Garrett 1795 eagle was an awesome coin” that is (or was) similar in quality to a few superb pre-1840 Half Eagles in the Eliasberg collection, which Teichman found to be spectacular. “The Eliasberg 1795 Eagles did not strike me as being in that class. They were nice pieces but not like the Garrett coin,” Teichman relates. (more…)

New Coin Discovery: 1856-O Double Eagle Discovered in Ohio to Be Offered At Long Beach

This recently discovered coin made front-page news in the July 26, 2010 Coin World, with a headline proclaiming “1856-O gold double eagle surfaces in Ohio.” The double-decker headline added, “Rarest New Orleans Mint gold coin in family holdings.” Numismatic researcher John W. McCloskey relates in detail how this rare coin–one of about 20 to 30 1856-O twenties known–was turned over to him for evaluation as part of a “small accumulation of gold coins held by a family in Ohio for nearly 100 years.” The coin has now been authenticated, encapsulated, and certified XF45+ by NGC.

Gold coin specialist Doug Winter calls the 1856-O double eagle issue “the rarest New Orleans double eagle and the rarest gold coin struck at the New Orleans mint.”

The Discovery

McCloskey’s Coin World article describes how an Ohio resident asked him to evaluate the family holdings:

“He indicated that ownership of the coins could be traced back to James Bullock, a gentleman who owned a farm near the city of Livermore, KY., during the early years of the 20th century.

“When Bullock died on June 26, 1923, his estate included a collection of gold coins that were passed down to his heirs as treasured family heirlooms. These coins have passed through three generations of family descendents over the years since his death and are now spread out among several family members.”

The Realization

The Coin World story relates the owner’s gradual realization of how fabulous and rare the 1856-O twenty is:

“After my evaluation session with the new owner I went home and checked the June 2010 issue of Coin World’s Coin Values and realized that I had just stumbled upon a great rarity that was completely unknown to the numismatic community. I then called the owner and told him that the 1856-O double eagle was listed at $220,000 in an Extremely Fine grade and that the piece might bring considerably more than that at auction considering its beautiful original surfaces and minimal field marks. I don’t think that the family really believed my estimate of the coin’s value but it began to sink in after I showed them the price listing in my copy of Coin Values.”

The Authentication

McCloskey goes into great depth over how, after they realized that “we had a treasure on our hands,” he studied the present piece under a microscope and identified various surface diagnostics that helped in its authentication as a genuine 1856-O double eagle. His descriptions of those obverse and reverse criteria, as quoted from Coin World, follow: (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Great Coins at the ANA Convention in Boston

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #14

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

When people talk about an ANA Convention, they tend to emphasize the coins that they bought or sold, rather than about the overall impact of the event. At any first or second tier coin show, collectors with modest budgets can find appealing coins. Collectors can also socialize with other collectors at a wide variety of coin related events. The Winter FUN Convention, the Summer ANA Convention, and very few other first tier events, are special for other reasons. Of course, educational programs and the meetings of specialty clubs are among these reasons. Multiple mammoth auctions, during a six to ten day period, in the same neighborhood, offer material of a tremendous variety and of startling depth in particular areas. While I will put forth some remarks regarding bourse and auction activity, I focus here, however, on the great coins that were present at this year’s ANA Convention and in the accompanying auctions in Boston.

Yes, readers of this column are aware that, for weeks, I have been writing about rarities that were offered in Boston at the B&M, Stack’s and Heritage auctions. In last week’s column, I covered some of the prices realized for famous rarities in the B&M auction. As I will discuss below, the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollar traded again.

In my column of July 28, I wrote about the Simpson Proof 1804 Eagle, a Kellogg $50 gold coin, the two Half Unions in the B&M sale, and an 1854-S Quarter Eagle in the Heritage auction. In my column of July 21, I covered the Platinum Night offerings of the collections of Dr. Claude Davis and Dr. Brandon Smith. In earlier columns, I analyzed the offerings in these Boston auctions of one-year type coins and Great Rarities. Before I provide further coinage of coins in auctions, I wish to emphasize that there was an impressive assortment of important rarities on the floor of the ANA Convention, many of which could have been easily viewed by all those who attended.

I. Rarities in Boston for Everyone to See

There is a need for collectors to understand and appreciate coins that they cannot afford. To comprehend the coins that a collector owns, he (or she) has to have some understanding, often subconsciously, of the values and traditions of coin collecting in the United States. Furthermore, to fully enjoy coin collecting, there is a need to learn about Great Rarities, famous coins in general, supergrade representatives of non-rare issues, and/or beautiful classic coins. These are central to the culture of coin collecting. Would it make sense for an art enthusiast to only view paintings that he (or she) can afford to buy?

Many (though not all) dealers in sophisticated material are delighted to show rarities to collectors who cannot afford to buy them. I realize that there are non-affluent collectors who feel too embarrassed to ask dealers to show expensive coins.

There were many great coins for all to see at this ANA Convention in Boston. The Smithsonian Institution had the incomparable 1849 Double Eagle and other rarities on display. Further, a collector allowed for the public display of the finest of two known 1861 Philadelphia Mint Double Eagles with the distinctive reverse (back) that was designed by Anthony Paquet. Additionally, the NGC had the Simpson collection Proof 1804 Eagle ($10 gold coin) on display, along with an 1804 Eagle ‘pattern’ that was struck in silver! (Please see my column of July 28.)

At the PCGS tables, there was a simply astounding display of the Peter Miller collection of Proof Half Cents and Proof Large Cents. I spent some time viewing Miller’s early Proof Large Cents. Though I am very tempted to write about them here, the characteristics of these are just too complicated to discuss in a weekly column. Someday, I will write a series on Proof Large Cents. All collectors, however, may see images of Miller’s copper coins in the PCGS registry, which is available online. Before actually purchasing such coins, however, I would strongly recommend consulting an expert in 19th century Proof coins, rather than an expert in die varieties of half cents and large cents, though I would not rule out the possibility that someone could be an expert in both areas.

The ‘Ship of Gold’ exhibit contained numerous historical items relating to the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America. The largest known gold bar from the era of the California gold rush was featured. Years ago, Adam Crum sold it for a reported price of “$8,000,000.” Other than the private sale of the ‘King of Siam’ Proof set in 2005, a numismatic item has not sold for more than $8,000,000.

To anyone who expressed an interest, the staff at Legacy Rare Coins was delighted to show Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles ($20 gold coins) that were recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. For more information about the shipwreck and these coins, please see my recent article on Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles. I admit that I was very curious about these Prooflike San Francisco Mint Double Eagles, which I had never thoroughly examined before, and that Legacy Rare Coins supported my research in this area. (more…)

1796 Bust Quarter from the Norweb Collection in Heritage Coin Auction

In his 1796 Mint report, dated November 29, Elias Boudinot discussed some of the problems that faced the fledgling Mint in Philadelphia: “He has seen, with regret, an opinion generally prevailing, that the establishment is unnecessarily expensive, and less productive than was rationally expected by its advocates and friends.” Among the problems was free coinage, meaning that the government paid the cost of refining silver and gold deposits, including the cost of copper that was necessary for alloy purposes. Boudinot continued: “not only the original cost of the works, and the salaries of the stated officers, fall on the public, but also the whole amount of the workmanship, with the alloy, wastage, and contingent losses.”

During the period from July 18, 1794 to November 12, 1796, a total of 39 deposits of silver were brought to the Mint. Among those were five deposits in August 1794 that were the exact fineness of standard silver (89.24% pure). Only seven of the remaining 34 deposits were lower-purity than standard silver, but those seven deposits totaled 98,556 gross ounces of silver, or nearly 25% of all the silver deposited during that 29-month period. The result was a necessity for the Mint to supply more than 2,100 pounds of copper to bring the silver deposits up to standard. At the prevailing rates, the cost of that copper alone was approximately $560. Copper collectors will be quick to point out that the cost of the alloy was equal to a little over 70,000 additional large cents that could have been minted.

The 5,894 quarter dollars minted in the second quarter of 1796 were included among the silver coins minted at the time. Attempts to correlate silver deposit data from the 1796 Mint Report to coinage delivery records have failed, but research continues. Comparing those records does indicate an approximate delay of three months, suggesting that the silver contained in the coins was deposited around the first of the year.

The 1796 quarters were the first of their kind, featuring the Draped Bust obverse modeled from the work of Gilbert Stuart, and the Small Eagle reverse that would soon be replaced with a Heraldic Eagle design. These are one-year type coins, the first quarter dollars ever minted, and a low-mintage issue. Total production included the 5,894 coins struck in 1796, and 252 additional pieces coined in February 1797. Modern research into die states shows that the Browning-2 quarters, with the High 6 date position, were the first coined, adding to the importance of this coin.

More than a dozen Gem Mint State 1796 quarters still exist, although few of them have the strike of this example. On nearly all known examples, the eagle’s head and neck are flat and indistinct, with the leaves above showing no detail. Although minor adjustment marks affect the strike on the present coin, the head still shows nearly full design definition. Breen claimed in his Proof Encyclopedia that “The weakness at eagle’s head is characteristic of the design and is not to be attributed to imperfect striking.” The mere existence of sharp heads on pieces such as the Norweb specimen clearly show that Breen was incorrect. However, the vast majority of pieces have poorly defined head and neck details on the reverse. Finding an example with full details at that location is a rare numismatic event.

This boldly defined Gem is one of the finest existing 1796 quarters. Steel, russet, and sea-green toning enhances the underlying deep golden appearance. The fields are fully and obviously prooflike. Besides the bold definition on the head, the wing feathers are sharp, and the rock below the eagle has full detail. The border dentils, especially on the obverse, are bold and wide, providing a wonderful frame for the design elements. An early die state example, the Norweb Gem is struck from perfect dies, adding credence to the idea that it is a special presentation strike. A few light adjustment marks on the reverse are visible, but they hardly affect the incredible beauty of this piece. The cataloger for the Norweb Collection suggested that this is a special piece: “This is quite possibly a presentation coin, of the type which years ago used to be called Proof, struck, as Walter Breen suggests, at the beginning of coinage of the denomination on April 9, 1796.” The combined attributes of this incredible coin from the Norweb Collection ensure that it will delight collectors for generations to come. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: an 1870-S Silver Dollar, an 1817/4 Half Dollar, and an 1854-O $20 gold coin

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #7

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. Today’s Theme

So far, I know of two Great Rarities that will be auctioned in Boston in August, and of a third coin that it is very likely to be a Great Rarity. It may be true that there are others of which I am not yet aware. B&M will offer an 1870-S silver dollar and an 1854-O Double Eagle ($20 gold coin). Heritage will put an 1817/4 overdate half dollar ‘on the block.’

For a coin issue to be a Great Rarity, there must be a maximum of twenty-five pieces known to exist in the present, including business strikes and Proofs. As Proofs of these three issues were never minted, there is no need to discuss the possibility of their existence.

Curiously, 1817/4 halves and 1870-S silver dollars seem to be equally rare. I am nearly certain that there are nine known 1870-S dollars. Specialists in Capped Bust Half Dollars have concluded that there are nine known 1817/4 halves. Seven have been known for many years, and two have, strangely in my view, somewhat recently surfaced, not long after the finest known 1817/4 sold for a then record $333,500 on Nov. 29, 2004.

The 1854-O Double Eagle is not as rare as either of these two silver coins. It is likely, though, that fewer than twenty-five exist. If there are thirty, than this issue is a ‘Near Great Rarity’!

Why are these Great Rarities and not 1794 silver dollars, which are more famous? In last week’s column, I discussed the Boyd-Cardinal 1794 dollar that will also be auctioned in Boston. While it is a very desirable coin that is of tremendous importance in the culture of coin collecting, it is not a Great Rarity. There are between 130 and 160 1794 silver dollars in existence. In 2004, Martin Logies, a leading expert on this issue, estimated that 140 survive.

Merely being popular does not make a coin a Great Rarity. In addition to the requirement that twenty-five or fewer be known to exist, each Great Rarity must be traditionally considered a component of an established series. Die varieties, particularly those that require a microscope to identify or are otherwise obscure, generally cannot be Great Rarities, though these are highly prized by some advanced collectors.

The meaning of a Great Rarity is not dependent upon emotions or opinions; there must be underlying facts that establish such a high level of rarity and the acceptance of the respective date. Some other Great Rarities are: the unique 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Dime, 1894-S dimes, 1873-CC ‘No Arrows’ Quarters, 1838-O half dollars, 1841 Quarter Eagles, 1854-S Quarter Eagles (and Half Eagles), 1815 Half Eagles, 1822 Half Eagles, 1875 Eagles and 1927-D Saints. There are more than ten others and I look forward to compiling a thorough list in the future. I just mentioned some famous and indisputable Great Rarities in order to illustrate the concept.

There are a few reasons as to why Great Rarities are important. Most have to do with the culture of coin collecting and cannot be simply explained. The most obvious reason, however, is that Great Rarities are needed to complete sets. Unlike the collecting of paintings or vintage automobiles, coin collecting often involves attempts to complete sets that are widely recognized. (more…)

Classic Coin to Display Two Ultra Rare Double Eagles in Boston Valued at $18 Million

“Coins Worthy of a King” the 1861-P Paquet and 1921 Proof Double Eagles in Historic ANA Exhibit

An $18 million display of two rare Double Eagles accompanied by Boston-related early Americana will be one of the exhibit highlights in the Museum Showcase area at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money convention in Boston, August 10 – 14, 2010.

1861-P Paquet $20 NGC MS67:  Formerly in the famous Farouk and Norweb collections, this 1861 Philadelphia Mint "Paquet Reverse" gold $20, graded NGC MS67, will be displayed at the ANA World's Fair of Money in Boston courtesy of Brian Hendelson of Classic Coin Co.  (Photo courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.)The coins in this first-ever display are the finer each of the two known 1861 Philadelphia Mint “Paquet Reverse” gold $20, graded NGC MS67, and 1921 Proof Roman Finish Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, graded NGC SP64.

[PHOTO CAPTION: 1861-P Paquet $20 NGC MS67 – Formerly in the famous Farouk and Norweb collections, this 1861 Philadelphia Mint “Paquet Reverse” gold $20, graded NGC MS67, will be displayed at the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Boston courtesy of Brian Hendelson of Classic Coin Co. (Photo courtesy of Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.)]

Insured for $8 million each, they are being provided for the ANA exhibit by Brian Hendelson, President of Classic Coin Co. of Bridgewater, New Jersey.

“This will be the first time both coins have ever been displayed at the same time and location. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for thousands of visitors to see them together up close,” he said.

In addition to these two coins, other historic items in the display from Hendelson’s own collection include one of the few known surviving broadsides of the Declaration of Independence printed in Boston circa July 17, 1776 by printers Gill, Powars and Willis; seven silver spoons crafted by legendary Boston patriot Paul Revere; and a silver teapot and knee buckles made by fellow Colonial era Boston silversmith, Jacob Hurd, that were acquired by a New England family in 1785 and passed down to their heirs for over two centuries.

In descriptive text prepared for the exhibit, ANA Museum Curator Douglas Mudd headlines the Paquet design Double Eagle as “a coin fit for a king.” One of its former owners was the notorious King Farouk of Egypt who amassed a fabled coin collection before he was deposed in 1952. It also was in the famous coin collection of Ambassador and Mrs. R. Henry Norweb.

Nearly three million Double Eagles were struck in 1861 at the Philadelphia Mint, but today only two are known with a slightly modified design on the reverse made by Assistant Mint Engraver, Anthony Paquet, who also engraved the first Congressional Medal of Merit. His lettering on the $20 coin is taller and more slender than the design originally created in 1857 by Chief Engraver James Longacre. (more…)

Video: Interviews with Martin Logies and Steve Contursi on the Sale of the 1794 Silver Dollar

The Neil/Carter/Contursi specimen 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar was sold in May for $7,850,000, setting a new record as the world’s most valuable rare coin. Graded PCGS Specimen-66, it is the finest known 1794 dollar and believed by several prominent experts to be the first silver dollar ever struck by the United States Mint.

It was sold by Steven L. Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, California, to the nonprofit Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF) in Sunnyvale, California. Collector and numismatic researcher Martin Logies represented the foundation of which he is a director and its numismatic curator. The private sale was brokered by Greg Roberts, President and Chief Executive Officer of Spectrum Group International of Irvine, California.

From 2004 to 2009, the coin was a featured exhibit at the American Numismatic Association’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was displayed at a half dozen ANA World’s Fair of Money and National Money Show conventions around the country.

The 1984 Stack’s auction lot description in the Carter Collection sale stated, “It is perfectly conceivable that this coin was the very first 1794 Silver Dollar struck!” Over the decades, various numismatic researchers have stated a similar belief including Walter Breen, Jack Collins, John Dannreuther, David Hall and Logies who is author of the book, The Flowing Hair Silver Dollars of 1794.

David Lisot of CoinTelevision.com interviewed both the buyer, Martin Logies, Curator Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation and the seller, Steve Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers at the Long Beach Expo earlier this month.

CoinLink is pleased to be able to provide both of these interviews:

[iframe http://www.coinlink.com/Video/062110_logies.html 544px 395px]

Buyer of the 1794 Dollar for $7.85 Million: Martin Logies, Curator – Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation [9:18]

CCEF maintains several web sites to provide information about early American coins, including www.EarlyUSCoins.org and www.EarlyDollars.org that features an interactive “treasure hunters” guide for easily attributing early U.S. silver dollars by die variety. Another web site is planned, www.CCEFlibrary.org, that will be devoted to providing the public with access to the foundation’s extensive numismatic library.

“Of all the rarities I have seen or heard of, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the single most important of all, the very first silver dollar. This is the coin that has it all,” said Logies. (more…)

Coin Grading: NGC Certifies Rare S-79 1795 Reeded Edge Liberty Cap Cent

Among early United States cents one of the rarest and most mysterious is Dr. William H. Sheldon’s variety number 79 having a reeded edge, an example of which has just been certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

Only eight pieces are confirmed to exist, and this one has been off the market for some 30 years. Its last public appearance was in a 1977 auction by the now-defunct Numismatic and Antiquarian Service Corporation of America (NASCA). NGC has graded and encapsulated this remarkable coin as having Fine Details with corrosion.

Aside from its rarity, S-79 is an intriguing variety on several counts. It possesses a reeded edge, the only large cent of any type to have such an edge device. Its obverse is unique to this die marriage, though it is similar in most respects to those of other 1795 cents. Where things really get odd, however, is that this cent variety was coined using a reverse die shared only with several varieties of 1796-dated cents. It was thus almost certainly coined well into that year and possibly as late as 1797. The U. S. Mint is known to have employed dies of earlier dates for as long as they remained serviceable, and this appears to be the case with S-79.

The reason for applying a reeded edge is entirely undocumented. This edge device evidently was used well after the December 1795 order reducing the weight of cents in response to the rising price of copper. The thinner planchets that resulted from this weight reduction precluded usage of the lettered edge device common to some 1793 cents, all those dated 1794 and the early issues dated 1795, which is why most 1795 cents and all 1796 cents have plain edges.

The only comparable instance of an unusual edge device occurs with the two die marriages of 1797-dated cents having “gripped” edges. These show a series of shallow cuts on their edges that were imparted by the edge milling machine. Perhaps they were contemporary with the extremely rare reeded edge cents dated 1795, as the U. S. Mint experimented to find a suitable replacement for edge lettering. Again, no documentation is known which would verify this theory.

The rare S-79 just certified by NGC is a previously-known specimen, though it has not been seen in the marketplace since its last recorded sale in 1977. It appears in fourth place in the condition censuses published by both William C. Noyes (United States Large Cents 1793-1814) and Walter Breen (Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793-1814, edited by Mark R. Borckardt).

Though the variety was evidently known to collectors as early as 1862, this particular specimen was discovered by famed dealer Henry Chapman and included in his auction of June 1916, where it brought the grand sum of $1.75! It later passed through the collections of several legendary numismatists, including Howard R. Newcomb, Henry C. Hines and Dr. Sheldon himself.

The coin was submitted to NGC by Silvertowne of Winchester, Indiana. Owner David Hendrickson is delighted to be able to handle this great rarity. “It’s such a wonderful experience to come across a coin which has remained extremely rare despite a century and a half of searching by collectors,” Hendrickson said. “We at Silvertowne are proud to become a part of this cent’s distinguished pedigree.”
(more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Bowers & Merena auction, Proof 1876-CC dime, and $150 million for the CAC

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #5

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. Today’s Theme

I will not be discussing the most expensive or the rarest coins that are coming ‘on the auction block’ this week. Rather, I have selected a few that I find to be both newsworthy and particularly interesting. Admittedly, these are expensive. I continue to insist, though, that an understanding of rare coins, and of the values in the coin collecting community, requires knowledge of coins that most collectors cannot afford.

Suppose that this column was geared towards art enthusiasts rather than coin enthusiasts. Would it then make sense to discuss only the paintings that most art collectors could afford? Collectors who cannot afford great and culturally important paintings enjoy learning about them and often learn to apply their knowledge of famous painting to their interpretations of a wide variety of not-so-famous paintings. Likewise, coin enthusiasts, in general, appreciate coins that are great, famous, very rare and/or important to the culture of coin collecting.

Please see my discussions below of the following coins. The 1851-O trime is the only Three Cent Silver issue that was not struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Indeed, it is curious that the New Orleans Mint struck this denomination, as the Branch Mints tended not to manufacture small denomination coins in the 19th century. The Hawaiian Eighth-Dollar is certainly extremely rare and extremely curious. The 1926-S nickel issue is just incredibly difficult to find in MS-65 or MS-66 grade. As I discussed one in last week’s column, I could not resist mentioning another, as B&M will auction it this week in Baltimore. Similarly, I discussed a rare and historically important King James II English gold coin last week and B&M will auction a coin of the same design type this week. Plus, the unique Proof 1876-CC dime is one of the most exciting coins of all.

II. The CAC Surpasses $150 Million Level

It is widely known that the CAC approves (or rejects) submitted coins that are already graded by the PCGS or the NGC. Approved coins receive a green sticker, or, in rare instances, a gold sticker. It is not as widely known that the CAC will make sight unseen commitments to pay competitive prices for CAC approved coins. These are not ‘low ball’ bids. As of June 15, the CAC has purchased $154 million of coins, almost all of which are CAC approved.

The CAC was founded by John Albanese in Oct. 2007. CAC purchases have thus been averaging more than $4.7 million per month. The $150 million level was reached in early June.

Albanese was the sole founder of the Numismatic Guaranty Corp (NGC) in 1987. Around Dec. 1998, he sold his shares in the NGC to Mark Salzberg, who is the current NGC Chairman. (For more discussion of the CAC, please see my articles on CoinFest, Jay Brahin’s Coins, the PCGS graded MS-68+ 1901-S quarter, the 20th Century Gold Club, and Dr. Duckor’s quarters.)

Although the CAC has acquired thousands of coins that are valued at under $5000 each, the CAC has approved and acquired some very famous coins. Among others, the Eliasberg 1870-S silver dollar and the finest known, Rogers-Madison 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold coin) come to my mind.

III. Unique Proof 1876-CC Dime

Laura Sperber, of Legend Numismatics, acquired the unique Proof 1876-CC dime from a New Jersey dealer in early June. On Saturday, June 12, she sold it for an amount in excess of $200,000. It “went into a collection of Proof Seated Dimes,” Sperber reveals. It is certified as Proof-66 by the PCGS and has a sticker of approval from the CAC. (more…)

Park Avenue Numismatics Sells Classic Key Date US Gold Coin: 1854-O Double Eagle in AU-55

[CoinLink News] June 10, 2010 – Park Avenue Numismatics is pleased to announce the acquisition and sale of the one of the Finest Known examples of the rare and elusive 1854-O $20 Liberty Type 1 Double Eagle graded AU55 by NGC.

The coin, worth an estimated $650,000, was sold to a Collector attempting to complete a set of $20 Liberty Head Double Eagles. This 1854-O, Green says, “was sold to a client as an upgrade to his complete set.” Green has “handled two other 1854-O deals with him over the past decade. Moreover, his set is fast becoming one of the finest complete $20 gold sets known.” If it were registered, “it would compete with the best sets out there,” Bob declares.

“We are fortunate to be able to handle major rarities such as this and our clients’ rely upon us to continue to aggressively pursue and locate key date gold coins and assist them in completing sets and series, stated Bob Green, President of Park Avenue Numismatics.

“This example was fresh to the market and when it surfaced I went after the coin without hesitation,” Green continued. “This is the finest I’ve seen.”

Of the 3,250 originally minted only 4 have been graded AU55 by NGC with only 2 graded finer in AU58. The 1854-O Liberty Double Eagle is one of the most important rarities in U.S. numismatics and is the second rarest New Orleans Mint Double Eagle (Only behind the 1856-O) .

There are no 1854-O Double Eagles that grade MS-60 or higher, with only a handful of AU specimens available. As such demand for properly graded 54-O’s is intense according to Green. The coin is listed as one of the TOP 100 Greatest US Coins.

Park Avenue Numismatics, a Miami based rare coin firm established in 1987, specializes in Ultra Rarities, and has handled this date before including examples grading V35, XF45, AU50 and AU53 in the past decade. “Collectors contact us regularly with Key Date gold coins because of our stellar reputation in this specialized area of the market,” Green continued. Other numismatic rarities acquired recently include a 1907 $10 Indian MS67 NGC, and a collection of Pre-1908 MS68 United Stated gold coins (more…)

World Coin Highlights from Goldbergs Upcoming Pre Long Beach sale

Ira and Larry Goldberg will be holding three exceptional sales prior Long Beach. They include the sale of THE DAN HOLMES COLLECTION Part II, Middle Date U.S. Large Cents on Sunday May 30th, 2010, United States Coins and Currency on Monday May 31st, 2010 and then Ancient and World Coins & Currency on Tuesday & Wednesday June 1& 2, 2010.

Here we would like to highlight 4 of the World Coin Highlights, coincidentally all from the previous Goldberg’s Millennia Sale. They are as follows:

Lot 3411 Russia. Peter I, 1682-1725. Novodel Ruble struck in Gold, 1705 (Moscow).

Fr-76 (62); Sev-12; Bitkin-532; Diakov-page 87, part 1. 44.22 grams. Laureate, cuirassed youthful bust right. Reverse: Crowned, double-headed eagle with scepter and orb. Plain edge. Sharply struck with all details bold, Peter’s hair curls in higher than normal relief. The surfaces are fully prooflike on both sides, with the devices softly lustrous to frosty matte and the fields reflective with an almost watery texture. Undoubtedly a high gift of state, the coin has been carefully preserved, with minimal marks or hairlines. The reverse die shows faint radiating cracks. This is one of the most important of all Russian coins!

Struck in gold to the weight of 13 Ducats, 44.22 grams, and created from the dies of the novodel ruble of 1705 (Sev-185), this is the plate coin shown in Bitkin and Diakov which appeared in both the 1977 Soderman and the 1991 Goodman auctions and is the only specimen appearing at public auction in over 25 years. Severin mentions this particular specimen (his number 12) as well as another weighing 40.4 grams, making this one of only two known examples. He also mentions a gold 1707 rouble (no. 18) and a 1723 in 12-ducat weight, each presumably unique. NGC graded MS-63.

Among Peter’s numerous reforms, he caused his country’s coinage system to change from being the most old-fashioned in Europe to being the most up to date. His was the first coinage to employ the decimal system (dividing the Ruble into one hundred smaller units, of copper Kopecks). Part of his reform involved devaluation, which made, for the first time, the Russian Ruble equivalent in its buying power to the Polish, Saxony and Silesian thalers which had seen such free circulation within the country before. It is said that, when the first Ruble coins bearing Western-style Arabic dates were struck in 1707, it was Peter himself operating the coin press!
Estimated Value $275,000 – 325,000.

Ex Dr. Robert D. Hesselgesser Collection (5/30 – 6/1/05), lot 1751; Goodman Collection (Superior, Feb. 1991), lot 4; and Soderman Collection (Swiss Bank, Feb. 1977); Illustrated in Money of The World, coin 115. Ex Millennia, Lot 802 where it Realized $340,000 (more…)

The World’s Most Valuable Coin: Cardinal Foundation buys First 1794 Silver Dollar for $7.85 Million

The Neil/Carter/Contursi specimen 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar has been sold for $7,850,000, setting a new record as the world’s most valuable rare coin. Graded PCGS Specimen-66, it is the finest known 1794 dollar and believed by several prominent experts to be the first silver dollar ever struck by the United States Mint.

It was sold by Steven L. Contursi, President of Rare Coin Wholesalers of Irvine, California, to the nonprofit Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation (CCEF) in Sunnyvale, California. Collector and numismatic researcher Martin Logies represented the foundation of which he is a director and its numismatic curator. The private sale was brokered by Greg Roberts, President and Chief Executive Officer of Spectrum Group International of Irvine, California.

“This is a national treasure, and I’ve proudly been its custodian since 2003,” said Contursi. “I never wanted to simply hide it in a vault because this coin is to our economy and international trade what the Declaration of Independence was to our country’s freedom: a significant piece of history and a national treasure.”

Contursi used his investment to publicly display the coin in a dozen cities around the country and at the American Numismatic Association’s headquarters museum. He had a custom-made, four foot tall wooden exhibit case constructed so it could easily be viewed, and he estimates that tens of thousands of people saw the coin in person the past six years.

“CCEF will seek to be a worthy successor custodian for such an important U.S. historical treasure,” said Logies. “I think it only fitting that the new world’s record coin price be accorded to the world’s finest 1794 dollar.”

Of all the rarities I have seen or heard of, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the single most important of all, the very first silver dollar.

Roberts, who brokered the sale, stated: “The Spectrum Group of companies were honored to be involved in the historic transaction that culminated in the transfer of this piece of American art into deserving hands.”

Previous owners included Col. E.H.R. Green, W.W. Neil and Amon Carter Senior and Junior. The 1984 Stack’s auction lot description in the Carter Collection sale stated, “It is perfectly conceivable that this coin was the very first 1794 Silver Dollar struck!” (more…)

Highest Certified 1901-S Barber Quarter Breaks Coin Auction Records and Becomes the Star of a Coin Convention

by Greg Reynolds for CoinLink

On March 4, in Baltimore, B&M auctioned a 1901 San Francisco Mint quarter dollar, which was then PCGS certified “MS-68,” for $327,750, an auction record for a Barber quarter and for any business strike Barber coin. John Brush, acting on behalf of DLRC, was the successful bidder. While bidding, he was talking to John Feigenbaum, the President of DLRC, on the phone.

On March 25, this quarter was featured at the PCGS announcement of the SecurePlusTM program in Fort Worth, and had been regraded “MS-68+.” On March 26, Bill Shamhart negotiated with Feigenbaum to buy this quarter. During the following week, it was CAC approved, and Shamhart placed it in a private collection. Other than the Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Nickel that sold during the FUN Platinum Night event, this is the most ‘talked about’ coin in 2010, so far.

I. This 1901-S sells at Auction and then Privately

Early in 2010, this 1901-S quarter remained in an NGC holder, with an MS-68 grade, and was submitted by B&M to PCGS for consideration as a ‘crossover.’ It did, in fact, ‘cross,’ meaning here that the PCGS also graded it as MS-68.

John Feigenbaum explains that, soon after this 1901-S was auctioned on March 4, the “PCGS was looking for a trophy coin to display during their announcement; so they contacted me to inquire if I would be willing to put this coin in their new holder. I was happy to oblige.” Technically, there is a new SecureShield insert in the same type of holder. This quarter became the first coin to be PCGS graded “MS-68+,” under the new system that allows for ‘+’ grades. On March 25, David Hall included this coin in his presentation, in Fort Worth, at the formal announcement of the SecurePlusTM program.

When PCGS officials contacted Feigenbaum about arranging for this coin to be a showpiece, “there was no discussion of the ‘+’ designation,” Feigenbaum reports, “that was a complete surprise. Frankly, I didn’t even know it was an option.”

On Friday, March 26, at the ANA Convention in Fort Worth, Bill Shamhart, [www.numismaticamericana.com] a New Jersey dealer and CAC consultant, arranged for one of his clients to purchase this 1901-S quarter from Feigenbaum, subject to verification of its grade by the CAC. During the following week, the CAC placed a sticker on the holder, and this quarter thus traded again. The CAC approved the MS-68 grade; the CAC will not accept or reject ‘plus’ grades. Shamhart’s client is a “lifelong collector” who desires American coins of “amazing quality.”

At auction on March 4, the firm of David Lawrence (DLRC) acquired this 1901-S quarter for inventory largely because the firm has specialized in Barber Coinage for more than a quarter century. Barber coins were minted from 1892 to 1916. John Feigenbaum’s deceased father, David Lawrence Feigenbaum, founded DLRC in 1979. David authored three books on Barber coinage, one book on each denomination, dimes, quarters and half dollars. In the late 1990s, father and son co-authored a fourth book that focused on Mint State and Proof Barber coins that were certified by the PCGS and the NGC. DLRC sells Proof, Mint State, AU and circulated Barber coins. (more…)

1861-S Paquet $20 Gold Double Eagle to be offered at Central States Coin Show

Despite the common misconception, Anthony C. Paquet was born in 1814 not in France but in Germany–specifically, Hamburg–of French ancestry. His father, reportedly Toussaint François Paquet, was a bronze worker. “Anthony” could equally likely have been named with the German form “Anton” or the French “Antoine,” anglicizing his name upon coming to America in October 1848.

Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre was some 20 years Paquet’s senior, born in 1794 and having been hired at the Mint in 1844 after the death of Christian Gobrecht. Although evidence is sketchy, it appears that Longacre may have prevented Paquet from showing his true potential at the Philadelphia Mint.

Paquet worked as an engraver and/or die-maker in Philadelphia from 1850 through 1855 and in New York City in 1856-57. He was hired as an assistant Mint engraver in October 1857, moving back to Philadelphia where he lived at 402 Blight Street, according to an 1860 city directory. He worked for the Mint as assistant engraver until 1864, afterward completing occasional Mint assignments on a contract basis.

Paquet furnished letter punches for pattern coinage, possibly the same punches that were used on the 1857 Flying Eagle cents. Paquet’s lettering was extremely tall with thin vertical strokes, producing an unusual effect.

Andrew W. Pollock III in United States Patterns and Related Issues illustrates (Pollock-3131; Judd-A-1857-1) an interesting uniface experimental piece showing the varying diameters of the dime, quarter, and half dollar with the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA inscribed within each. Pollock notes that “the lettering is similar to that featured on many pattern coins attributed to Anthony Paquet.”

The Paquet Reverse double eagles of 1861 are among the few U.S. circulating coinage designs that can be definitively attributed to Paquet. The memorable Paquet design lacked a broad rim, making the coins prone to extensive abrasion, and the design was recalled soon after its inception. All but two of the Philadelphia Mint pieces struck were melted, but the San Francisco Mint struck some 19,250 pieces before news of the recall reached that distant facility.

The variety was promptly forgotten until 1937 when it was announced in Numismatic News. Today most certified examples are in the XF-AU range with a few dozen pieces each certified at NGC and PCGS, making it the rarest S-mint Type One double eagle.

This is one of the few high grade examples that have surfaced over the past 70 years. The surfaces are bright yellow-gold and noticeable traces of mint luster surround the peripheral devices. Each side is remarkably free from the distractions that normally plague these coins. The reason for the frequently seen abrasions is attributed to Paquet’s lowered rim, a design feature that allegedly gave the interior design features less protections from contact with other coins. The design motifs are sharply defined throughout. This is a rarely offered opportunity for the astute collector of 19th gold. Census: 16 in 50, 29 finer (3/10)

Offered as Lot 2306 in the Heritage 2010 April-May Milwaukee, WI CSNS US Coin Auction #1139

The Norweb 1921 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle To be Sold by Heritage

The 1921 Saint-Gaudens double eagle is a premier rarity in the series, ranking as the third rarest regular issue, behind only the famous and ultra-rare 1933 and 1927-D emissions. Considered as a condition rarity, the 1921 moves into second place in the rankings, surpassing even the fabled 1927-D. The date joined the elite group of coins that have sold at auction for more than $1 million in 2005, when the finest known specimen realized $1,092,500 as lot 6644 of the Phillip H. Morse Collection (Heritage, 11/2005).

Any offering of a 1921 double eagle is noteworthy, but the opportunity to acquire a Choice specimen of this prized issue, with a pedigree to one of the most famous collections of all time, is truly a landmark in numismatic history.

Numismatists of the 1940s were mystified by the rarity of the 1921 Saint-Gaudens double eagle and many other issues in the series, because mint records reported substantial mintages for most dates (528,500 pieces in the case of the 1921). Of course we understand today that the great majority of them were destroyed in the Gold Recall of the 1930s.

While some dates found refuge in European banks and were later repatriated to augment the meager supply of coins in this country, this has not been the case with the 1921 twenty. The only reference to any examples of this date returning from European holdings is found in Breen’s Encyclopedia, where he speculates about five pieces that may have surfaced since 1981 and about a half-dozen examples David Akers mentioned from his days at Paramount (possibly the same coins).

When describing the 1921 double eagle in our recent FUN Signature Auction (Heritage, 1/2010), lot 2315, we published the following information about the actual number of 1921 double eagles officially released:

“In an interesting and remarkable letter first published in the June 2006 American Numismatic Rarities auction catalog, Dr. Charles W. Green writes to Louis Eliasberg in February 1947. Dr. Green had inquired of Mint officials about the availability of Saint-Gaudens twenties, realizing at an early date how rare certain issues were relative to their mintage. Mint officials told Dr. Green ‘the true record would be, not the number struck, but the number ‘put out’; that is actually issued from the producing mints, all the rest having gone to the melt and of course very possibly some of those put out went to the melt also.’ He listed several rarities, among which was the 1921: ‘Of the 1921 Philadelphia double eagle, only 25 coins were put out. So there we have a perfect record of rarity. The rest went to the melt.’ It is natural to assume that with certain rarities more pieces were rescued prior to melting by Treasury Department or Mint employees.” (more…)

Finest-Known 1901-S Barber Quarter to be sold by Bowers and Merena in Baltimore

This is the undisputed “King of Barber Coinage,” the rare and eagerly sought 1901-S Quarter. The San Francisco Mint struck a mere 72,664 Quarters in 1901, which snatched the record low mintage for the Barber series from the hands of the 1896-S (188,039 pieces produced).

This record would remain intact until 1913, when the San Francisco Mint delivered a mere 40,000 Quarters. The 1901-S is much rarer than the 1913-S in all grades, however, for the issue was saved in far fewer numbers by the contemporary public.

Indeed, little interest seems to have been taken in the 1901-S Quarter at the time of its production, especially numismatic interest. What interest there was in the 1901-S seems to have been focused entirely on the issue’s usefulness as a circulating medium of exchange. And circulate these coins did, many of the 72,664 pieces being lost in the process and most survivors displaying heavy wear. As with most issues in the various Barber coin series, in fact, the only 1901-S Quarters that are seen on a fairly regular basis in numismatic circles are low-grade pieces in AG, Good and VG.

Even at the lower reaches of the numismatic grading scale, however, the limited mintage guaranteed that the 1901-S would be a scarce coin in an absolute sense. Rarity increases exponentially through the Fine, VF, EF and AU grade levels, at which point we find ourselves at the Mint State portion of the grading scale. Here the 1901-S is very rare, the small number of such pieces known to exist having survived almost purely as a matter of chance.

The B&M cataloger has never seen a 1901-S Quarter with the technical merits and eye appeal of this awe-inspiring Superb Gem. This is the single highest-graded 1901-S Barber Quarter known to PCGS, and the coin fully deserves every bit of honor that derives from this important standing. (more…)

The Phantom Silver Dollars Of 1895

By Tom Delorey – Harlan J Berk Ltd.

The Morgan Dollar has long been one of the most popular American coin series, apparently second only to the Lincoln cent in the number of people who collect it in some manner, and the 1895-P dollar has long been called “The King of Morgan Dollars.”

1895 Morgan DollarHowever, for an equally long time it has been one of the more frustrating series to the collector who seeks completeness in his sets, as no numismatist has ever been able to fill the 1895-P hole in his Whitman album or Capital plastic holder with a genuine business strike specimen, despite a reported mintage of exactly 12,000 coins.

Wealthy collectors have usually been able to fill that hole with one of the 880 Proofs struck in that year, always available at a healthy price several times what a Proof from a “common” year would bring, and I have even seen a few sets where an 1895-P gold Double Eagle rattled about the dollar-sized hole.

Perhaps a hundred of the Proofs are currently known in various circulated conditions at slightly more reasonable prices, having been spent over the years by hard-up collectors during the Great Depression, children buying candy without their Father’s knowledge and garden-variety thieves, and it is not impossible that another fifty or so have been permanently lost due to lengthy circulation and/or melting. Many hundreds of 1895-O&S dollars also exist with their mint marks removed, though most of those so altered were mutilated many years ago before the branch mint coins of this year became expensive, (in part because so many of them were altered!)

Conventional wisdom has long held that the 12,000 business strikes must have been melted down in accordance with the Pittman Act of 1918, when the U.S. government reduced some 270,000,000 silver dollars to bar form and shipped the bars to India. There the British government, bankrupted by the war in Europe but desperately in need of the war materiels provided by its colonial empire, converted the silver into Rupees to pay the workers producing these goods. It is hard to say if the colonial subjects would have felt enough loyalty to a foreign monarch to have continued to work for free, but the monarch probably slept better knowing he did not have to test this loyalty. (more…)

1943-S Lincoln Cent Struck in Bronze sold by Heritage for $207K

The Amazing Branch Mint Error Rarity Graded VF35 by PCGS

Coming on the heels of Heritage’s offering of a 1943 bronze cent struck at Philadelphia in their January 2010 FUN Auction, Heritage has just sold this 1943-S bronze cent in the February 2010 Long Beach Auction.

Few coins are so misunderstood, so mysterious, so legendary as the 1943 cents struck in bronze, known informally as the 1943 “copper” cents.

In 1943, the U.S. Mint switched from bronze to zinc-plated steel for cent coinage in an effort to conserve copper for use in World War II. Over a billion “Steel Cents” were struck by the three Mints combined in 1943, though a majority of the known 1943 “copper” cents were struck in Philadelphia, not Denver or San Francisco. Fewer than 20 are known.

Most experts believe the error occurred when left-over bronze planchets were mixed with a batch of the new Steel planchets that went through the usual striking methods, then escaped into circulation.

An article by Gary Eggleston stated “In the June issue of the “Numismatist,” 1947, it was reported that a Dr. Conrad Ottelin had discovered a 1943 bronze Lincoln Head cent. A few weeks before Dr. Ottelin’s discovery, Don Lutes, Jr., a 16 year old from Pittsfield, MA, found one in his change from the high school cafeteria. Then in 1958, a boy named Marvin Beyer also found the 1943 bronze cent. With the publicity from all three finds, and estimates that these coins could sell for at least 5 figures (at that time) at auction, a national frenzy was created. Every man, woman and child sifted through their pocket change looking for their fortune.” (more…)

Stack’s Sells Two Important Dahlonega Gold Coin Rarities

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

In their recently concluded January 2010 Americana sale held in New York, there were two record-setting Dahlonega gold coins that I think are worth taking a closer look at. What were these two pieces and why did they sell for as much money as they did?

The first piece was an 1861-D gold dollar graded AU53 by PCGS. I had sold this exact coin a few years ago and was familiar with it. It was very high end for the date and grade and, by today’s standards, would probably grade AU55 to AU58. I expected that it would bring around $40,000 or so. It sold for $57,500. I believe that this is an all-time record price for a circulated 1861-D dollar.

This coin did so well for a number of reasons. The first, obviously, is that it was a nice coin. 1861-D gold dollars are not well-known for having good eye appeal and the last few that have been available have either been damaged or not terrifically appealing. The second is that there is currently an unprecedented demand for this date. The 1861-D dollar is an indisputably cool coin and a lot of people are looking for coins like this right now. Given the supply/demand ratio, it seemed likely that this coin would sell for a strong price but, again, I was pretty stunned at it bringing close to $60,000.

What would this coin have sold for in another environment? Probably a lot less. One thing about auctions is that it only takes two people to really want a coin and it can sell for a ton of money. If I had owned this exact 1861-D dollar and put it on my website, I’m sure my asking price would have been in the low $40’s and I might have not even expected to get that much money for it. But now that the bar has been raised for the 1861-D dollar, I expect that the next one offered will be priced enthusiastically, to say the least. (more…)

Platinum Night was Golden; Bellwether Sale Sparks Markets for U.S. Coin Rarities

By Greg Reynolds for CoinLink

I. Introduction & Overview

In 2010, the annual FUN Platinum Night event was held on Thursday, Jan. 7. It is just one session in Heritage’s annual auction extravaganza, which is conducted in association with the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Convention in Orlando. During this one night, however, an incredible selection of U.S. gold coins was offered. The total prices realized for Platinum Night alone was more than $25 million. The most famous coin in the sale is the Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Nickel, which realized about $3.74 million.

olsen_1913_liberty_nickelAlthough Heritage conducts two to four Platinum Night events per year, the January FUN Platinum Night event is usually the most newsworthy. On, Jan. 7, three different items sold for more than one million dollars each, and there was an excellent offering of Brilliant Proof gold coins.

One of the most interesting coins in the sale is a Proof 1839 Half Eagle ($5 gold coin). It is NGC certified as Proof-61. This coin is, indisputably, a Proof. Many pre-1840 coins that are regarded as, or even certified as, Proofs, are questionable. Matt Kleinsteuber agrees, “it is definitely 100% Proof, other coins of the era are ambiguous” in regard to Proof status. Moreover, it is one of only two known Proof Half Eagles of this date. It was formerly in the collection of King Farouk. It brought $181,000.

Several past Platinum Night events have featured dazzling collections of U.S. silver coins and/or individual silver coins of tremendous importance. The Jan. 2010 event will be remembered primarily for business strike Saint Gaudens Double Eagles ($20 gold coins), Brilliant Proof gold coins, a Bickford $10 gold pattern, a few exceptional gold type coins, a neat run of 19th century quarters, some popular Mint Errors, and a 1913 Liberty Nickel. Please click here to read the article that I devoted to this 1913 Liberty Nickel. Therein, I cover the coin, its importance, and the auction action, in detail.

Since then, David Hall has told me that he “thought the 1913 Liberty nickel brought a good price. [$3,737,500] wasn’t a moon price, but it’s a $3 million dollar coin so an extra 25% is a lot of money.” Hall is the primary founder of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), and remains a force behind the PCGS and its parent company.

Adam Crum of Monaco Rare Coins agrees that the $3.74 million result is “a really strong price” for this nickel. Moreover, Crum remarks that, “for weeks, buyers of expensive gold coins were sitting on their hands waiting for the Platinum sale. The success of Platinum Night ignited a fire. On Friday, there was a mad rush nationwide for rare gold coins.” (more…)

Stacks to offer 1792 Half Disme at Americana Sale

The first silver coin of the new United States. This denomination is one of the 1792 coins struck before the cornerstone of the new Philadelphia Mint was laid. Researchers Joel Orosz and Carl Herkowitz did considerable research on this issue and their findings were published in the ANS American Journal of Numismatics 15 in 2003.

half_disme_stacks_012610George Washington himself provided silver coins or bullion to provide the silver for this issue, approximately $100 in value of which $75 in face value in half dimes were produced (the mintage of 1,500 is believed true), the balance of the silver was likely scrap and its disposition is unknown.

These were struck in the cellar of saw maker John Harper as the new Philadelphia Mint was still under construction at the time these were coined. Finished coins were reported by Adam Eckfeldt to have been given to President Washington who distributed them as gifts to friends, many ending up going overseas.

The actual planchets were prepared and delivered to the mint by Thomas Jefferson, who made records of these actions in his personal journals.

As some were given out to dignitaries and friends, this accounts for the number of high-grade examples that are known today. However, the vast majority did circulate and like other early half dimes from that period are often found with considerable surface challenges.

The present example is among the finest known. NGC has certified six in this grade, only three finer, the highest MS-68. The obverse has minor adjustment marks on the rim where every precious grain of silver was measured and any planchet deemed too heavy was filed just enough to get to the correct weight. (more…)

‘Near-Mythic’ 1849-C Open Wreath Gold Dollar to be offered by Heritage at Long Beach

One of Just 4 Known Pieces to exist

Nearly every series has its key date(s), important coins that are required to complete a collection. However, throughout the entire panorama of American coinage, there are a few issues that stand out as major rarities. Among the most important is the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar, of which there are just four confirmed examples, with a fifth piece rumored. Heritage will present the XF45 NGC piece, the third finest of the four known coins. The 1849-C is peerless in the field of Southern mint gold coins struck in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dahlonega, Georgia; or New Orleans, Louisiana.

1849-C_g$_open_wreath_ha_lb_2010In fact, the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar has few peers among all regular issue U.S. gold coins. The unique 1870-S three dollar piece is a special issue; the 1797 Heraldic Eagle half eagles with 16 stars and 15 stars on the obverse are each unique in the Smithsonian Institution; the 1822 half eagle has just three known (including two in the Smithsonian Institution); the 1854-S half eagle has just three known; the 1861 Paquet double eagle has just two known; and the 1933 double eagle has just one in collectors’ hands, but 13 are known. Any of those coins would easily bring seven figures if offered at auction today. There are a few additional million-dollar coins, but none are in the same rarity category as the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar.

The 1849-C Open Wreath has had difficulty keeping pace with other major rarities. The current auction record for any example of this issue was established in July 2004, when the finest known example realized $690,000. That was a time when eight other coins had already broken the seven-figure barrier.

Doug Winter writes in the third edition of Gold Coins of the Charlotte Mint 1838-1861 that “this variety remains underpublicized among non-specialists. Among Charlotte collectors, it has assumed near-mythic proportions.” The time is right for the 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar to make its own place among auction records for rare coins–and the time is also right for the forward-looking collector to add this coin to his or her collection.

As with most major rarities, the provenance of the known 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollars is subject to continual refinement. The NGC Census Report lists this coin and two others, an MS63 Prooflike piece and one that grades Fine 15. A single AU58 coin appears on the PCGS Population Report, and all four certified coins are listed in our roster: (more…)

Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Nickel Sells for $3,737,500

by Greg Reynolds for CoinLInk

The Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Nickel sold shortly after 10:00 PM on Thursday, Jan. 7. It is the highest valued item in an auction extravaganza conducted by Heritage Auction Galleries in association with the annual winter FUN Convention in Orlando, at the Orange County Convention Center. This convention is open to the general public.

The Olsen-Hawn 1913 Liberty Nickel was the centerpiece of this year’s FUN Platinum Night auction event, which is devoted to expensive U.S. coins. Much more modestly priced coins are auctioned at other times.The Olsen-Hawn piece is widely regarded as the second finest of just five 1913 Liberty Nickels in existence.

This nickel was purchased “by a sophisticated East Coast collector,” according to Todd Imhof, the Executive Vice President of Heritage, and “has found a home among other Great Rarities,” Imhof adds. “He is not completing a set of Liberty Nickels. He bought it because he likes Great Rarities.”

Greg Rohan, the President of Heritage relays that the underbidder wishes to reveal only that he is an accomplished “business executive who just re-entered coin collecting circles.” Further, Rohan indicates that the underbidder “wanted to get started again by buying a 1913 Liberty Nickel. He is very disappointed.” It would have been a neat and exciting way to start a new coin collection.

Sam Foose was the auctioneer. Before this coin ‘came up’ for live bidding, it was indicated on the Heritage website that the opening level would be the reserve, which had not yet been met, $2,750,000, or $3,162,500 with the 15% buyer’s fee that is standard at all major coin auctions. Bidders usually take this 15% fee into consideration when they factor their bids. It is logical to do so. So, I will include adjusted bids in parentheses herein. (more…)

The Most Famous 1913 Nickel: The Olsen Specimen. A profile and History

The following is from the 2009 FUN Heritage Auction Catalog and is perhaps the most informative summary of the history of the Olsen Specimen 1913 Nickel and the Modern Provenance Period.

1913 5C Liberty PR64 NGC. – The Olsen Specimen

Recently dubbed “The Mona Lisa of Rare Coins,” the Olsen specimen is the second finest of just five known examples and is currently graded PR64 NGC. It was the first 1913 Liberty Head nickel offered for sale in a public auction, and the only specimen that professional numismatist B. Max Mehl ever handled, despite his extensive advertising campaign that promoted the famously rare coin.

It also holds the record as the first coin to break the $100,000 price barrier in 1972, while another 1913 nickel, the Eliasberg specimen, became the first coin to break the $1,000,000 price barrier some 24 years later.

It is certainly possible that a 1913 Liberty nickel, perhaps the Olsen specimen, will someday become the first coin to break the $10,000,000 price barrier.

Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth, authors of The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, noted in the 2009 third edition that the Olsen specimen “has been viewed … by more people than any other.” In A Guide Book of Shield and Liberty Head Nickels, Q. David Bowers describes the Olsen specimen as the most famous of all 1913 Liberty Head nickels. “This particular coin is probably the most highly publicized of the five specimens,” writes Bowers.

John Dannreuther considers it to be the second of five 1913 Liberty nickels struck. His detailed analysis, discussed later, indicates that the Smithsonian specimen was the first coin struck, followed by the Olsen specimen, and then the other three. Of those three coins (another specimen is in the ANA) in private hands today, the Olsen specimen was struck before the other two. A professional numismatist from Memphis, Tennessee, Dannreuther is well respected among his peers for his critical eye and careful reasoning. He was one of six numismatists chosen for the authentication team when the Walton specimen of the 1913 nickel reappeared in 2003, after a 40-year absence. (more…)